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The Garden of Eden

Page history last edited by Brock Baker 11 years, 8 months ago


In what way does the story of the Garden of Eden relate to Sophie?

The Story of the Garden of Eden found in the book of GENESIS:

Chapter II:

GEN 2:8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he

put the man whom he had formed.

 2:9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight,

and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil...

 2:15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of

Eden to dress it and to keep it.

 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

 2:18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

 2:19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

 2:20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

 2:21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

 2:22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

 2:23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

 2:25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Chapter III: -

 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

 3:2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

 3:3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

 3:5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

 3:7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

 3:8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

 3:9 And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

 3:10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

 3:11 And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?

 3:12 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

 3:13 And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

 3:14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

 3:17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life...

 3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

 3:23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

 3:24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.



Interpretations of the Story of the Fall (wikipedia)

Judaism and Islam

Judaism and Islam interpret the account of the fall as being simply historical, Adam and Eve's disobedience would have already been known to God even before He created them, thus draw no particular theological implications for human nature. Quite simply, because of Adam's actions, he and his wife were removed from the garden, forced to work, suffer pain in childbirth, and die.


The doctrine of original sin, as articulated by Saint Augustine's interpretation of Saint Paul, provides that the fall caused a fundamental change in human nature, so that all descendants of Adam are born in sin, and can only be redeemed by divine grace. Sacrifice was the only means by which humanity could be redeemed after the Fall. Jesus, who was without sin, died on the cross as the ultimate redemption for the sin of humankind.



An Alternative Interpretation


An Interpretation from Daniel Quinn



In both Daniel Quinn's Ishmael and The Story of B novels, it is proposed that the story of the fall of man was first thought up by another culture (pastoralists who lived off the land) watching the development of the now-dominant totalitarian agriculturalist culture. 



Question to Daniel Quinn:

What steps led you to question the conventional reading of the stories of the Fall and Cain and Abel in Genesis?

...and the response:

The foundation thinkers of our culture very naturally assumed that humans had been exactly like them from the beginning, that humans had been born as agriculturalists and civilization-builders. Since they could estimate when the birth of civilization occurred, they saw no reason to doubt that the birth of humanity occurred at the same time -- in other words, just a few thousand years before. If they'd known the truth, that humanity was born some three million years ago, their way of thinking would have of necessity been very different, and the works they produced would have been similarly different.  When the truth finally began to emerge in the nineteenth century, the descendants of these foundation thinkers -- philosophers and theologians -- should have felt powerfully impelled to reexamine those foundations, but they didn't. They weren't even slightly interested in the matter. They went on exactly as before, thinking and writing as if nothing had changed, as if humanity had been born just a few thousand years ago. I began to be struck by this oddity in my middle twenties, back in the 1960s, and I began to reexamine those foundations on my own.

Historians naturally had to fall in with the revelation that humans weren't born agriculturalists and civilization-builders. So instead of perceiving agriculture as being innate to us (as previous generations had), they began to see it as a fairly recent innovation. The concept of the Agricultural Revolution was born. They knew where and when it began -- about 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent now encompassed by Iraq. Being historians rather than theologians or biblical scholars, it was not their business to note that Genesis also has a story about the beginning of agriculture -- set in the misty past, near the beginning of time, in the same general region. It was similarly not the business of biblical scholars to note this fact or to attempt to connect the two.

I made it my business. I began with the assumption that the historians' account and the account in Genesis both referred to the same event. The difference between them was that the historians viewed the event as a great step forward for humanity, while the authors of Genesis viewed it as a punishment and a curse for humanity. This punishment and curse resulted from the acquisition of "the knowledge of good and evil." Theologians and biblical scholars really had no tools to use to figure out what was so wrong about having the knowledge of good and evil. Some speculated that knowing good and evil is a metaphor for losing your innocence; for them, Adam and Eve lost their innocence by losing their innocence, and having lost their innocence no longer belonged in the Garden of Eden and so were driven out to live by the sweat of their brows -- as agriculturalists.

Anthropologists know all about people who live the way Adam and Eve lived before the Fall. They're hunter-gatherers. But, being anthropologists rather than theologians or biblical scholars, it was not their business to consider the possibility that the story of Adam and Eve was the story of the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture in the Fertile Crescent -- and of course it wasn't the business of theologians or biblical scholars either.

I made it my business. I learned, for example, that missionaries reported that, like Adam and Eve before the Fall, their aboriginal clients didn't have the knowledge of good and evil. It was something that had to be taught to them, and they conceived it to be their duty to do so (despite the fact that God had expressly forbidden this knowledge to Adam and Eve). To us the forms good/evil and right/wrong seem almost innate to the human mind; they aren't; they're special to our culture (though that's a different story).

But I learned a great deal more than that. I learned to see things from the hunter-gather/aboriginal/Leaver point of view. I learned, for example, that the subjugation and slaughter of the aboriginal peoples of the New World bore an uncanny resemblance to the story of Cain and Abel. Cain the tiller of the soil "watered his fields with the blood" of Abel the herder (a metaphorical way of saying that he killed Abel in order to gain the territory he wanted to farm). This is of course exactly what we did on coming to the new world. All our fields were watered with the blood of hundreds of thousands (perhaps even millions) of hunting-gathering Abels.

The authors of the story of the Fall were Semites -- the ancestors of the Hebrews who claimed the story as their heritage. But the agricultural revolution didn't begin among the Semites, it began among their neighbors to the north, the Caucasians. So the Fall was not something that happened to THEM. I formed a theory -- like all theories, an explanation to be judged on the basis of how well it explains the facts it sets out to explain. My theory was this: Like Cain (and us), the Caucasians began to encroach on the territory of their neighbors -- the Semites being their neighbors to the south. They began to water their fields with the blood of the Semites.

The Semites (the theory continues) needed some sort of explanation for this behavior on the part of their neighbors to the north. Their neighbors were acting as if they were the gods of the world, as if they had the right to decide what and who shall live here and what and who shall not. They must believe, therefore, that they have the very knowledge the gods use to rule the world. And what is that knowledge? It's the knowledge of good and evil, because whatever the gods do, it's good for one but evil for another. It's impossible for it to be otherwise. Their neighbors were acting as if they ate at the gods' own tree of wisdom, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But embracing this knowledge carried its own penalty. Instead of living the easy and carefree life they formerly enjoyed, they were now living by the sweat of their brows as tillers of the field. Eating at the gods' tree of wisdom is assuredly going to carry a curse, and the authors of the story felt sure that this curse would be the death of man (Adam, in Hebrew).         

Many readers of ISHMAEL (including clergy of all faiths, seminarians, and even biblical scholars) have written to me to confess that my theory makes more sense than any other they've seen. But I repeat that it is "just" a theory -- and will never be proven as a fact. The only way to judge it is to ask: Does it make sense of the facts that are known -- and does it make more sense than any OTHER theory?



What do you think about Quinn’s interpretation? Is it plausible?  What would acceptance of such an interpretation mean for society?


Comments (1)

Mark P said

at 6:56 pm on Feb 5, 2009

This interpretation is very interesting in that it nurtures the notion of the agriculturalists ruling over the hunter-gatherers, but at the price of suffering under their own yokes (or, labor).
I find it very plausible, as it follows the violent, egotistical nature of present-day humans, and the fact that things seemed to go downhill as soon as 'recorded history' began at around 4000 BC, if you remember today's in-class discussion.

If society were to accept this theory? I'm not too sure it would in the first place. Today's society (particularly pertaining to history, politics or religion) is very much against change of any form, and I believe most people would be reluctant to such change, despite those of the faith finding that this theory "makes sense".
But if it were accepted, I think that there wouldn't be very much change in the world. The theory represented by the Bible remains the same, although it is now in a more earthly fashion. While somewhat sacrilegious, the morals and ideas remain the same, and for me, that's what truly matters, not how they come about.

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